If the Big 12 football championship game, returning in 2017 as the league announced on Friday, needs a nickname it can be called the 13th Data Point Bowl.
The data point is a term coined by the first chairman of the College Football Playoff committee, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. After a Big 12 team was omitted from the first CFP semifinals for 2014, Long said the league lacked a 13th data point — a conference championship game played by the four other power conferences.
The Big 12 reached the CFP this year with Oklahoma in the semifinals, but information provided by a research firm and presented to league officials this week suggested the conference would benefit from a title game.
“The 13th data point will be helpful for competition and financial considerations of the league,” said Oklahoma president David Boren, Chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors. “It was very, very convincing.”
The information was provided by Navigate, a Chicago-based firm, and presented to football coaches at a meeting in May. The presidents heard the data, the particulars not shared by the conference, at the spring meetings.
“It positions us in a very good place,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “If we’re playing a full round robin and a championship game our means of determining a champion is the strongest of all conferences.
“It puts us in a very good position.”
Many details remain to be worked out.
Will the Big 12 split into divisions, as it existed from 1996-2010, when the North and South winners met in the championship game, even with 10 teams?
“In all likelihood,” Bowlsby said. “We’ve looked at some models with two five-team divisions. You can continue to play a full round-robin.”
Bowlsby said there was concern about late-season rematches. Last season, had there been a title game between the league’s top two teams, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would have played twice in two weeks.
“Obviously, that’s not optimal,” Bowlsby said. “We’ll look at our current model and the other models, too. … We could end up like we’re playing now. It’s possible. That’s the charge of my office and the athletic directors to work through that.”
Where to play? Bowlsby said the league will go through a bidding process. The final two title games of the 12-team league were played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. Previously, title games were held in Kansas City, Houston, San Antonio and St. Louis.
The first championship game will be televised by Fox and will be on that network in odd-number years; ESPN will carry the game in 2018 and in even-number years.
The game will be worth $27 million to $28 million to the league on an annual basis, adding additional money to an already lucrative union: The conference announced it will distribute $304 million in even shares to the 10 teams from conference-generated revenue, a 20 percent increase over the previous year.
That figure does not include the income schools receive from third-tier media rights, which amount to about $3 million to $6 million per school. Texas, which receives $15 million from ESPN, is an exception.
A Big 12 network is unlikely, Boren said.
“When your consultants tell you and the marketplace tells you everything has changed … that takes it off the table,” Boren said.
At the moment, a football championship game does not have an impact on expansion possibilities. The Big 12 hasn’t ruled out but didn’t endorse growth.
“The data for a championship game was absolutely compelling, and the data for expansion is going to require some further thought,” Boren said. “There’s doubt expansion gives us marginal financial gain, but you have to weight that against impact. Our fans want to see our teams play great teams. They don’t want to see them play mediocre or less(er) teams.”
Boren said he went to the meetings without a strong opinion on a football championship game. He leaves convinced the Big 12 became a stronger conference.
“I think it’s a watershed meeting,” Boren said. “The members put aside their previous inclinations. I certainly have had mine and have not been shy about expressing them. But the conference always has to be open to moving forward and looking at other things.”